In an incredible development literally hours before the much-hyped health care summit is to begin between President Obama and Congressional Republicans, the Obama Administration signaled its intent to move forward with a much smaller, scaled back health care plan spending perhaps 250 Billion Dollars over 10 years instead of the near Trillion a year proposed by the present Obama Health Plan as released on Monday. The Wall Street Journal reports:
President Barack Obama will use a bipartisan summit Thursday to push for sweeping health-care legislation, but if that fails to generate enough support the White House has prepared the outlines of a more modest plan.
His leading alternate approach would provide health insurance to perhaps 15 million Americans, about half what the comprehensive bill would cover, according to two people familiar with the planning.
It would do that by requiring insurance companies to allow people up to 26 years old to stay on their parents’ health plans, and by modestly expanding two federal-state health programs, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, one person said. The cost to the federal government would be about one-fourth the price tag for the broader effort, which the White House has said would cost about $950 billion over 10 years.
Officials cautioned that no final decisions had been made but said the smaller plan’s outlines are in place in case the larger plan fails.
Such a move would disappoint many Democrats, including Mr. Obama. They have worked for more than a year to pass comprehensive legislation like the plan the president unveiled Monday, which would cover the bulk of the 46 million uninsured people in the U.S., set new rules for health insurers and try to control spiraling health-care costs.
The last reporting from the WSJ above could be the understatement of the decade, as many Democrats will be much more than disappointed. The left is already disappointed by the White House’s declaration yesterday that the public option was dead, and this scaled back, much smaller plan leaked just hours before the health care summit is sure to infuriate those on the left who have been agitating tirelessly for a comprehensive health care reform package along the lines of Monday’s Obama Health Plan. Indeed, should Obama actually fallback on the smaller plan as the WSJ suggests, such a development is certain to lead to questions about the consistency and effectiveness of Obama’s strategy on health care reform and much consternation in the left wing new media about the incompetence of his execution since the health care debate began in the Spring of 2009.
Looking back, if Obama had been agreeable to the type of plan he’s apparently contemplating now back in the Spring of 2009, health care reform would have passed with 80 votes in the Senate and Obama would have done a lot to prove his bipartisan bona fides. Instead, after nearly a year of advocating a strongly partisan health plan, Obama may now be signaling he will take what he can get in a scaled down bill, yet the damage to the Democratic Party and the Obama brand as inflicted since the Spring of 2009 by the health care debate will remain.
UPDATE: The Washington Post’s Obama advocate Ezra Klein and the Huffington Post report that the White House is furiously denying the Wall Street Journal’s report that a scaled back plan is under consideration. Klein’s report:
The Wall Street Journal has a splashy piece this evening on the White House’s plan B for health-care reform: a fallback approach that would cover 15 million people, do less to reform the system and cut costs, and carry a lower price tag. Call it health-care lite.
Plan B has been around for awhile. In August, discussions raged in the White House over whether to pare back the bill. The comprehensive folks won the argument, but people also drew up plans for how you could pare back the bill, if it came to that. More thinking was done on this in the aftermath of the Massachusetts election, when Rahm Emanuel and some of the political folks again argued for retreating to a more modest bill. As you’d expect, these conversations included proposals for how that smaller bill would look.
At this point, I could quote some White House sources swearing up and down that that’s all this is. A vestigial document that’s being blown out of proportion by a conservative paper interested in an agenda-setting story. They’re furious over this story. None of the quotes are sourced to the White House — not even anonymously — raising questions that the whole thing is sabotage. But it hardly matters. There’s no Plan B at this point in the game, and most everyone knows it.
UPDATE #2: Ed at Hotair picks up this Hill piece quoting House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer stating this morning before the summit that a scaled back bill along the lines of the one described by the WSJ last night is on the table:
Hoyer, the second-ranking House Democrat, said the president would have to look at a fallback proposal if the current proposals before Congress weren’t able to muster the votes to pass.
“I think the president’s open to that,” Hoyer said during an appearance on CNBC, cautioning that the president would clearly prefer to see the comprehensive bills pass…
“Obviously, the president has indicated he wants to have a comprehensive bill,” Hoyer said. “But the president, like all of us, understands that in a democracy, you do the possible.”